Expert reveals tips mums struggling to bond with babies

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Many new mothers struggle to bond with their babies and find themselves alone at home with a screaming child, feeling like a failed parent.

Psychotherapist Monika Celebi, who has written a new book ‘Weaving The Cradle’ that aims to help mothers and babies connect during the 1001 key days around birth, has given FEMAIL her top five bonding-with-baby tips.

The clinical practitioner, who is herself a mother-of-two, said: ‘Having a baby is the biggest adjustment humans experience – apart from being born and dying.

‘You suddenly go from being the centre of attention to everything being about the baby, and having to push yourself to try to understand the baby and what they need – it can be bewildering.’ 

Clinical practitioner Monika Celebi has shared her top five tips for connecting with your baby in the first year (stock image)

Clinical practitioner Monika Celebi has shared her top five tips for connecting with your baby in the first year (stock image)

Clinical practitioner Monika Celebi has shared her top five tips for connecting with your baby in the first year (stock image)

Monika’s tips include learning how to give the unique and relationship-creating ‘mothers’ loving look’ and improving confidence through videoing time spent together and getting feedback.

And it may sound luxurious, but learning to soothe your infant through baby massage helps parents learn when to soothe their babies and work out what they want. 

FIND A COMMUNITY AT MOTHER/BABY GROUP 

Monika argues mother and baby groups are essential for mothers finding things hard.

‘Going to a group is the equivalent support system for parents that we used to have in society with big extended families around us,’ she said.

‘Sometimes as a new mother you don’t know how to act, and today we don’t have the aunties and uncles around us to show us how to deal with day-to-day things.

‘Being part of a group is a reality check. They are great levellers – they are spaces parents are not judged. They come as they are with their babies and get a lot of support and help. They create an environment where parents can relax, at which point they can start to become attuned to their babies and share difficulties, hopes and concerns. You see others interact with their babies, which also helps.’

The South Bucks-based therapist added: ‘Going to a group should be normal. You can ask for one from your local community centre or GP, or set up your own if you are aware of your (and your friends’) needs.

‘If you set one up it would be good to get an experienced professional, or someone with a lot of experience with young children, to facilitate.’ 

Monika explores these methods and illustrates practical aspects of running groups (in education, health, and social care settings) in her new book Weaving the Cradle

Monika explores these methods and illustrates practical aspects of running groups (in education, health, and social care settings) in her new book Weaving the Cradle

'Going to a group should be normal. You can ask for one from your local community centre or GP, or set up your own if you are aware of your needs'

'Going to a group should be normal. You can ask for one from your local community centre or GP, or set up your own if you are aware of your needs'

Monika explores these methods and illustrates practical aspects of running groups (in education, health, and social care settings) in her new book Weaving the Cradle

IMPROVE YOUR CONFIDENCE BY VIDEOING TIME TOGETHER AND GETTING FEEDBACK

Monika practices Video Interactive Guidance (VIG), which involves filming mother and baby playing together or other normal interactions, then editing the video down to highlight the top ‘positive’ moments. 

‘The impact of seeing yourself on screen has a huge impact on parental confidence,’ Monika said. ‘I go through the video with them and show good moments, which they can then recognise and know to repeat. 

‘The process also has the impact of switching on the loving and “care taking system” in the parent, which helps them. 

‘All babies seek to make connection by reaching out as they need adults around to survive. They have a “seeking system” they reach out to anyone around them to look after them. And as adults we have a “care taking system”, which reacts to the seeker.’ 

LEARN TO SOOTHE YOUR INFANT THROUGH BABY MASSAGE 

Massages may be a luxury for adults, but they are a necessity for babies, as if they are not touched enough in the 1001 days it is detrimental to their well-being.  

‘Baby massage is about encouraging parents to touch their babies,’ Monika explained. ‘Everything with babies is about the whole body, they can’t speak so they speak through their body.

‘But some parents may have a bad experience of touching their baby – or they may be insecure about hurting them, so we support their development through this process.

‘Learning baby massage also helps parents to read their child’s cues and know when to soothe them through touch.’

'The 1001 key days around birth are the critical days when babies learn most of what they need to develop as functional human beings'

'The 1001 key days around birth are the critical days when babies learn most of what they need to develop as functional human beings'

‘The 1001 key days around birth are the critical days when babies learn most of what they need to develop as functional human beings’

LEARN HOW TO GIVE THE LOVING LOOK 

‘The 1001 key days around birth are the critical days when babies learn most of what they need to develop as functional human beings. 

‘Mothers suffering from mild to moderate post-natal depression are often not picked up, but even mild depression has a big impact on the baby.

‘The depressed parent will interact less with the baby, which is bad for development, as they will look less lovingly at the baby. 

‘We know that mothers’ loving looks does the same thing as when you fall in love with a man – your pupils change and it gives a non verbal communication of “I love you”.

‘This unique look activates the chemicals in the babies’ brains that need to be stimulated to allow them to develop loving relationships, and feel worthy of love and relationships, so it is vital.’

What is Post Natal Depression?

Not all women struggling to connect with their babies have post natal depression (PND), but many do, as it often goes undiagnosed

Around 15 per cent of mothers suffer mild to moderate PND in the year after giving birth.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists lists not feeling like you love your baby, not feeling close to your baby and finding it difficult to work out what your baby is feeling or needs as classic symptoms of PND.

Taken together, perinatal depression, anxiety and psychosis carry a long-term cost to society of about £8.1 billion for each one-year cohort of births in the UK, according to campaign group Wave Trust.  

Monika said: ‘If anyone feels they need help, they should ask their GP if there is a group they can attend, as well as getting other forms of help.’ 

FIND OUT HOW TO READ YOUR INFANT’S CUES WITH ‘WATCH WAIT WONDER’

Watch, Wait and Wonder is a well-known psychotherapeutic approach. It involves a mother and baby ‘working through developmental and relational struggles through play’. 

It differs from other ways of helping mother or child bond because its main focus is on the child’s actions. 

Monika explained: ‘This is an approach of paying attention to your baby and instead of jumping in and doing things quickly, learning to wait and watch to see what your baby really wants.

‘It’s about being mindful and not doing things reflexively. Therapists try to help parents be present in the moment and not crowded by what other people say or what they think they ought to be doing, to work out what is going on with the baby.’ 

Monika explores these methods and illustrates practical aspects of running groups (in education, health, and social care settings) in her new book Weaving the Cradle.    

Monika explores these methods and illustrates practical aspects of running groups (in education, health, and social care settings) in her new book Weaving the Cradle 

Monika explores these methods and illustrates practical aspects of running groups (in education, health, and social care settings) in her new book Weaving the Cradle 

Monika explores these methods and illustrates practical aspects of running groups (in education, health, and social care settings) in her new book Weaving the Cradle 

Child neglect in the UK 

The methods Monika describes are currently used in groups to help women in need – many of whom were neglected or abused themselves

According to research reported by Wave Trust,  20 per cent or more of UK adults have suffered significant maltreatment as children

Monika explained: ‘Neglected babies are on average less happy, do less well in school and die earlier.

‘Research shows mothers treated badly as children then struggle to connect with their own babies.

‘Most parents intuitively do the right thing, but those who didn’t experience the kind of loving care they need will often not be able to give it to their babies.’

She added: ‘It is a big problem in soc that is not being addressed adequately.’

If you were affected by anything you read in this article, please see here or recommendations of 24 helplines to call  


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